If you’re forming a business and thinking about how to keep your customers happy — or how you’ll calm them down when they’re angry — you have more than just a standard customer care phone line to consider.
You might, for example, implement chatbots and text messaging services that act as automated alternatives to customer representatives. These low-cost and low-risk services sway plenty of business owners.
With more people shopping on their smartphones and engaging with brands on social media, this might make sense for your business. But what does this mean for customer phone lines? Well, we don’t think you should write them off just yet.
While having a bot pop up on your homepage might give you a healthy conversion rate (when done correctly), there are some things it can’t do, like be empathetic, adjust behavior based on situational factors, and use discretion.
Here are nine reasons why customer phone lines aren’t outdated just yet and why they can even beat the bots when it comes to implementing the right top funnel for managing customer complaints.
- There’s No Expiry Date on Human Interaction
While some believe that customer service will be entirely taken over by chatbots and artificial intelligence systems in the near future, there’s plenty of scope to say that this will never fully happen.
There’s no denying that automation continues to help businesses better their processes and save time — that’s why virtual receptionist services were developed.
But human interaction will never cease to be important, with Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs ever dominant at the core of buyer behavior.
It seems preposterous that customers could ever be satisfied with a solely automated experience. Blanket messages and FAQs answered swiftly might work where a simple answer is needed. If you want to know if a certain blouse comes in red, this approach works fine. However, if you ordered the same blouse in red and it got delivered to you in blue, our best bet is that a robot would likely peeve you off when you’re trying to resolve the issue.
- People Are Still in Love with the Freephone
It’s only been four years since the 0800 prefix in the UK was made a freephone extension by legislation. In the US, different states have their own versions of this — and it shows that we’re all still in love with the fact that as a consumer, we can call a number absolutely free.
Yes, we know that chatbots and text messaging services also come at no cost. But the point is that they’ve always come free of charge, and so the benefit doesn’t come with that sweet taste of success at being able to get through to a phone line without fishing in your pockets for quarters or knowing that the charge will be added to your monthly phone bill.
- We’re All Addicted to Our Smartphones
If people are in love with the freephone, they’re practically married to their smartphone. With 40% of the world’s population predicted to use a smartphone by 2021, it would feel like a crime to diminish the key capability of a wireless phone — to make calls.
Sure, we’re all getting more proficient at using applications, social media, and other integrated solutions, but we’re not about to give up on the basic premise of a phone. In fact, recent studies have found that people barely use what makes a phone “smart”, with most of us using just a third of the applications and features on our super-advanced handsets.
- There’s Still a Place for Private Conversations
While receiving customer service via social media can provide you with a speedy response (especially if you’re outing or shaming the brand for its wrongdoings), there’s still arguably a place for private conversations when it comes to complaint handling.
Some brands deal with unfortunate scenarios really well (take British pastry mega-chain Greggs as an example, which expertly handled complaints about an offensive logo appearing to consumers). But what about when a complaint needs to be dealt with one on one? Social media and chatbots might be able to flag that there is a problem, but the resolution will still be found in a good old chat over the phone between the customer and customer representative.
In fact, if a brand is going to use a blanket response to negative attention on social media, they’ll usually sign off their comment with “please DM us about this” to continue the conversation behind closed doors.
- Phone Lines Have Been Updated (They’re Now Virtual)
As technology advances, so do our landlines. A phone line with wires and physical restrictions may well be outdated in today’s nomadic and ever-connected world, but thankfully, the phone line has kept up to speed with our migration towards a more modern workplace.
Phone lines are now virtual — meaning that a landline number can be transferred to a mobile device — which makes them appropriate for remote business owners, out-of-hours call handling, and solo entrepreneur use.
If you are a new business owner worried about connectivity and keeping your customers happy when the conventional working day ends, think again. Small business answering services for small businesses are expertly designed and delivered, meaning that you can retain the personal element of customer service without sacrificing your social life or compromising your remote business model.
- Other Customer Service Formats Lose 90% of Communication
Have you ever considered how much of an impact our tone of voice has on the quality of communication we receive and give?
Tone of voice, inflection, volume, and pace are all key factors of quality communication with customers (they’re even on the syllabus of this online business course). A bot might be able to recognize data in an instant, spit out grammatically accurate sentences, and be available 24 hours a day, but they can’t give our words context.
If you want to continue delivering quality messages to your audience, you’ll have to do so using your voice. It’s no surprise, then, that despite the rise in automated processes, traditional phone lines often trump our fancy service features.
- We Don’t Walk into Shops Anymore
As more people opt to spend their cash online via eCommerce stores and applications, we’re losing social interaction by the bucket load.
Replacing phone lines with automated alternatives can have the dangerous result of a customer never encountering another human being throughout the entire buyer’s journey. While we’re frantically adopting a “mobile-first” mindset, we can’t afford to lose sight of what makes products and services authentic — the people and emotions behind them.
- Phone Lines Cater for All Generations and Lifestyles
Text messaging applications, chatbots, and social media might be preferred by a younger generation — for whatever reason, millennials are particularly averse to making phone calls. But the introduction of these funnels on a wide scale could alienate an older generation or those who simply favor an “offline” lifestyle.
This article isn’t about denying the benefits of automated processes (they save time, money, and energy) but rather to warn firms about doing a complete switch-over. Your customer service department should be inclusive of all customers. If millennials don’t want to speak on the phone, let them text you. But if baby boomers want to dial your digits, make sure this service is still available to them too.
- Customer Links Provide Great Hints about Businesses — And Build Trust
Chatbots are instantaneous, but their robotic nature rarely gives off any hints about the business itself.
Today, phone numbers are available with different area codes to suggest a firm’s geographical location, and, of course, there are subtle signs you get from a person who picks up the phone.
It’s difficult to get a chatbot to represent your brand, but it’s easy to train a human to display cultural values, personality, and morals as they provide a service. This all serves to build trust — you’re far more likely to want to talk to someone based in your area and who understands your situation.
Rory Whelan is a communications expert with over twenty years experience in consultancy, television, media and telecoms. He writes articles frequently about the benefits of business phone plans for corporate leaders who are on-the-go and in need of increased flexibility or remote access.
Since 2012 he has held the role of marketing manager for eReceptionist, leading the product to become the favourite call management company for UK SMEs. The solution attracts a wide range of small businesses allowing them to manage their professional image whilst gaining a virtual office address and thus relieving them from a singular physical location.